For much of the 20th century, America publicised its feelings of superiority by openly stating thatAmerica both pioneered and perfected the following:
–A highly professionalised and scholarly state department that was able to conduct its duty free from partisan influence, while at the same time respecting the policy making decisions of democratically elected officials, including the President.
–A stable political system where both main parties as well as minor parties were patriotic, law abiding and could settle disagreements using respectfulrhetoric, no matter how impassioned.
–A free press that could scrutinise government officials at all times. This included an open door to foreign press which America often welcomed enthusiastically in order to ‘show off’ America’s perceived greatness.
–Public debates that were generally free of violence.
–A political system that could not be bought
–Freedom from foreign influence
–A predictable foreign policy based on loyalty to traditional allies and logical self-interest
Such uncritical sentiments were often articulated in high school level American textbooks on civics and government. Such idealistic if not boastful statement have never been fully true of any nation, but in some respects, many (though certainly not all) Americans did strive for these ideals and did so with sincerity.
But read the list again, this time without the prejudice of thinking that they were about ‘1950s America’. Can they be applied to Russia today?
The answer, whether one agrees or disagrees with the penultimate decisions and policies of the Russian government, is objectively, yes.
Russia’s governmental ministries, including the Foreign Ministry, Defence Ministry and Office of the Russian President are now among the most media friendly in the world.
Statements about non-classified meetings, policy decisions and military actions are published on a daily basis, generally in multiple languages. They are available for free online.
Russia releases these statements to both Russian and world media.
The fact that Russia released photos of Donald Trump’s handshake with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov while America decided not to release images taken by an American photographer who was present, is increasingly exemplary of Russia’s willingness to engage with the media and wider public at the pace which modern technology affords.
2. Peaceful Democracy
Whether one likes it or not, Russia is a vibrant democracy. Russia’s popularly elected State Duma has representation from opposition parties ranging from Communists to the deeply anti-communist and broadly conservative LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia). A Fair Russia is a popualr centre-left party while United Russia is the governing centre-right party.
The parties differ vastly more than the western media generally takes the time to report. When the parties do agree on large issues, such as respecting the right of the Crimean people to determine their own destiny, this unity is what America calls ‘bi-partisanship’, only in the case of Russia it is poly-partisanship, as Russia has four major parties compared with America’s two.
When American parties each vowed to ‘fight communism’ in their own way during the Cold War, this was not called dictatorship but patriotism and political unity. At the opposite end of this spectrum is post-war Italian politics when multiple political parties fought each other about every last detail of everything, resulting in almost permanent deadlock and frequent falls of governments.
3. Free Press
Russia has many debate programmes (far more than those which air on terrestrial US television) which air on a daily basis. These debates featured not only mainstream politicians but also fairly obscure radical leaders who win few votes but still get air time.
Foreign commentators and politicians are also frequently invited, including many from Eastern Europe who have a deeply negative view of Russia. They are allowed to speak freely in Moscow and even they admit this.
4. The Corruption Discussion
Corruption does exist in Russia, but as is the case throughout the 1st world, including and perhaps especially in EU states, corruption exists most profoundly at a local and regional level. This is a problem, but it is not a ‘Russian problem’ so to speak, it is sadly a modern problem.
Far from being hushed up or the reserve for conspiracy theorists, corruption in Russia is debated openly and vigorously. Corruption even in local government has declined drastically in recent years.
At a national level, Russian politics operates smoothly, predictably and openly.
Russia could improve its democracy by introducing national referenda. The same could be said of the United States. The only difference is that, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has proposed this, while neither the Democrats nor Republicans have done in recent years.
5. Foreign Policy
In terms of foreign policy, Russia funds a strong military to protect Russia and her interests. Her allies are well known and Russia has a generally positive relationship with them. Unlike modern America, Russian foreign policy tends to respect international law and organisations like the United Nations far more than the US does.
Whether Nikki Haley or Samantha Power, America’s recent envoys to the UN have not acted in a professional manner. By contrast Russia’s highly skilled diplomat corps is admired by much of the world for its diligence and adherence to protocol.
Where does this leave America?
America today is a country where branches of the elected government, judicial system, un-elected intelligence bodies and the media are all at each others throats.
The Democrats are out of power, but act as though they are unilaterally in charge. Today, a Democratic Congressman threatened the President with impeachment in a firebrand speech in the House of Representatives.
Intelligence agencies are leaking secrets to the press like it’s going out of fashion. The country is more divided than ever, violent protests are increasingly common and the only people criticised are foreign press agencies like RT whose level of proliferation is far smaller than home grown outlets like CNN. All this is on top of multiple federal judges openly at war with the President and his executive orders while prominent jurists paint a picture of a President who is so corrupt, it sounds like what America used to say about the Soviet Union!
This piece is not written in a spirit of anger, but one of tempered sorrow and contemplation. Russia looks at America, an America which some Russians once partly or even wholly admired and many are thinking ‘just what the hell is going on’?
Russians are a sceptical people by nature. Russians are born to question more and frankly they always did in private, even before the age of mass free media.
Many Americans seem to retain the self-righteousness and arrogance of previous decades but have lost any desire to scrutinise the powers that be.
When it comes to ‘Making America Great Again’, there is a lot of work to do. If things keep deteriorating at the current rate, one might be tempted to say, “Make America 1990s Russia Again’.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.